At first mention, the names Liz Simms and Drew Engel don’t immediately stand out in a crowded room that includes Positive Athlete founder and Pittsburgh Steeler great Hines Ward. Nonetheless, after hearing Simms and Engel’s stories, the two quickly attracted attention among fellow Western Pennsylvania student-athletes at the Positive Athlete Pittsburgh awards banquet on June 17 at The Senator John Heinz History Center.
Simms and Engel were named recipients of the Mylan Positive Athlete of the Year award, and each were presented with a $5,000 college scholarship from Mylan. The two were among 31 individuals honored from sports programs throughout Western Pennsylvania.
Mylan sponsors Positive Athlete Pittsburgh because it shares many of the program’s core values – whether it’s attitude and leadership or perseverance and grit. This year marks the sixth-consecutive year that Mylan has supported Positive Athlete Pittsburgh.
“It’s important to give back to the communities where we live and work,” said Leah Summers, head of community outreach and engagement. “We do that in many ways, including being an annual sponsor of the Positive Athlete program. Everyone has a story to share, and many of the winners reminded me of the kind of character and positive attitude that we value and respect at Mylan.”
Positive Athlete was created as a movement for more positivity in youth sports. The evening celebrates different stories of the student-athletes, many who have overcome difficult circumstances and others who have given back in significant ways.
The recipients of the Mylan Positive Athlete awards were among the best of the best recognized at the event. A top cross country runner and academic performer at Butler High School, Simms started her school’s Best Buddies program and was selected to lead its Leukemia Lymphoma campaign. She has also raised money for the Alzheimer's Foundation and annually organizes volunteers for her local Relay for Life. Liz has coordinated multiple walk and run events to give back to local charities, including a focus on diabetes as a tribute to her twin sister, who lives with Type 1 diabetes. A team captain in track & field, she is also ranked in the top 20 of her senior class.
Engel, a football standout at Canon-McMillan High School, is responsible for one of the largest holiday food drives in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, having collected more than 32,000 items for the local food bank over the past 5 years. Drew was diagnosed with a heart condition as a youth and has since organized many fundraisers to support various heart associations, in addition to supporting non-profit organizations in his community. A team captain in football and basketball, he also excels in the classroom with a 3.85 GPA.
“Mylan has helped give so many kids hope through their generous Positive Athlete scholarships,” said Ward. “These recipients display the right attitude and are involved in many charitable causes, having already learned the meaning of giving back at an early age, and many have overcome difficult circumstances and remained positive.”
More than $165,000 in college scholarships have been given away through Positive Athlete Pittsburgh over the past 8 years. Close to 1,000 nominations from coaches, principals, athletic directors, teachers, and parents were submitted from Pittsburgh-area high schools. A complete list of the 2018-2019 award winners can be found on their website.